MARY: EVER VIRGIN
Rev. Moses Gitlin
"Jewish (Baptist) Christian"
Editor "BIBLE TID-BITS"
Dear Sir: I read with interest the copy of Bible Tid-Bits you kindly sent me, in which the Scriptures and Mary are dealt with in an objective, argumentative manner that is commendable. I was particularly interested in your analysis of the claim, held "as a rule by Protestants," that Mary had other children besides Jesus. It was the subject of a correspondence years ago with Mary Borden, who claimed in her widely circulated "MARY OF NAZARETH" that the scriptural references to "the brethren of the Lord," and to Mary having "brought forth her first born," proved her to have had more than one child. This you adequately disproved by explaining the sense in which the terms were used.
I wish you had dealt as understandingly with other phases of the status of Mary. It would have brought you further in harmony with the Catholic Church. For instance, you uphold belief in the Virgin Birth of Our Lord, predicted by Isaiah (7:14) and announced by St. Luke to have taken place as foretold; but you deny that Mary remained virgin after the birth of Jesus, a heresy that caused the Ebionites and Cerinthians to be condemned during Apostolic times.
While I, and others of the Catholic laity, believe that Mary was "ever virgin" on the authority of the Catholic Church, the Spiritual Society that is safeguarded by God from error in such a declaration, I found it reasonable to believe that the marvelous holiness and dignity of Mary, the unique part she played in the Divine plan of Redemption, would have been impaired if her virginity were limited to the period before the birth of her Son. St. Augustine holds, in the Sermon on The Annunciation, that Ezechiel prophesied the perpetual virginity of the Mother of the Messiah in Chapter 44, verse 2. St. Augustine asks therein, "What means 'a closed gate,' except that Mary is to be inviolate? What does it mean that 'no man shall pass through it,' save that Joseph shall not know her? And what is this, 'it shall be shut forevermore,' but that Mary is a Virgin before His birth, a Virgin in His birth, and a Virgin after His birth?"
If you are not favorably impressed with the judgment of the learned St. Augustine, expressed over fifteen centuries ago, perhaps a present-day Protestant authority will help steer you into harmony with the judgment of the Catholic Church, that Mary was "ever virgin." Crudence, Concordance says that the word "virgin," in Greek parthenos, in Hebrew almah, in the famous passage in Isaiah,---"behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a child,"---"means she would be a virgin as well after as before bringing forth." Almost the whole Christian world was one in belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary at the time of the advent of Protestantism. The first Anglican Book of Common Prayer proclaimed belief in the "glorious and ever virgin Mary"; which has changed later on to the "glorious and most blessed virgin Mary."
You echo the thousandth time refuted objection to Catholic reference to Mary as "Mediatrix," quoting 1 Timothy 2:5, "for there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus." Catholics proclaim this, but in the sense of the other words in the sentence from which you quote a part only, in which St. Paul declares Jesus to be the Mediator "by redemption," or as your Protestant Bible says, by being "a ransom for all." Catholics believe that Mary, as mediator, can assist them in the attainment of salvation through her intercession, believing in "intercessions," as did St. Paul (1 Tim. 2:1). If St. Paul, the author of 1 Timothy 2:5, could ask Timothy to pray for him, as he did, can we not ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is with her Son in Heaven, to do the same for us? If St. Peter could promise to pray for his converts after his death (2 Peter 1:15); if St. John saw in his vision four and twenty ancients offering the prayers of Saints to God (Rev. 5:8), cannot the Mother of Jesus, who is closer to Him than any other person, act as a mediator? No Catholic holds Mary to be a mediator in the sense that Jesus is Mediator by virtue of being the Son of God; by virtue of the "redemption"; by virtue of having presented Himself as a "ransom for all." Mary, in Catholic understanding, is first and foremost among creatures as a mediator; being able to obtain favors from her son as readily as she obtained a favor for the guests at the wedding feast in Cana.
If you were to apply 1 Timothy 2:5 to yourself, you would cease being a minister. Do you not assume to act as a mediator when you preach? when instructing pupils in your Russian Correspondence Bible School? when you administer "baptism and the Lord's Supper? the two Protestant sacraments; or rather I should say, the two "ordinances", as Baptists do not claim to have sacraments. Mary is held by Catholics to be a creature like you and I are, though marvelously enriched spiritually by the heavenly dignity bestowed upon her, such as no other person ever enjoyed, or ever will be privileged to enjoy. Catholics are taught by their Church that the dignities, the privileges, the heavenly influence Mary enjoys, she owes primarily to her Son, Jesus, the Supreme Mediator.
Considering that God honored Mary, is it not proper to honor her? Are not those who love Our Lord obligated to honor Mary, who blessed mankind by bringing Him to us? I recall the occasion when honor was paid to the mother of President Roosevelt, while he sat on the platform in Savannah during the 200th anniversary of the founding of Georgia. A Committee of Savannah's most prominent women met her at the railway station, presented her with a beautiful bouquet of roses, and escorted her to the Celebration. The speakers referred to the honor conferred upon the 40,000 persons in the gathering, by her presence on the platform. One could see the face of President Roosevelt aglow, his heart was beating with joy, for he loved his mother, and he loved to have others love her. How much greater must be the Divine love of Jesus for His mother, than the human love President Roosevelt had for his mother? How much greater must be Our Lord's appreciation of the honor bestowed upon His mother? Honor shown to Roosevelt's mother was honor shown to Roosevelt; and honor shown to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is honor shown to Jesus.
At some points in your Bible Tid-Bits you reason so satisfactorily, that it is singular to find you indulging the superficial notion that Catholic reference to the Mother of our Lord as "Saint Mary" is not proper, because the Word of God nowhere titles Mary as "Saint" or "holy." Such an assumption should logically cause you to stop proclaiming Sunday to be the Sabbath Day, after your Jewish years during which you proclaimed Saturday to be the Sabbath Day. Where in the "Word of God" can days be found that are designated Sunday or Saturday? Nowhere! Nowhere in the Bible is there a command, or even a suggestion that the Sabbath Day be changed from the seventh to the first day of the week. The change was made by the Catholic Church, in the exercise of her Christ-given legislative power (St. Matt. 16-19-20).
No one can reasonably doubt that the Bible gives warrant for the glorious salutations with which Catholics are proud to greet Mary. God, through His angelic messenger, Raphael, hailed Mary as "full of grace," the greeting that is minimized somewhat in your Protestant Bible, by saying that she was "highly favored." Surely no one could be declared by God to be "full of grace," or even "highly favored," as Mary was, unless she was of the spiritual quality that is saintly, hence holy. Mary's humble submission to the will of God; the purity and sublimity of her life, warranted her being hailed by Catholics not only as "Saint Mary," but also as the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Virgin of Virgins, etc., etc., titles which you object, because they are not in the Bible. Mary's soul magnified the Lord, as she said on the divinely inspired occasion of her visit to Elizabeth. She declared that from "henceforth all generations shall call me blessed." These "generations" are generations of Catholics, who are proud to have called Mary blessed throughout the Christian ages. Mary was "persevering in prayer" with the Apostles in the Cenacle, "the Upper Church of the Apostles," as St. Cyril of Jerusalem designated this mother church of Catholic churches, in which the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles.
Thanks be to God, Mary has remained with that Church ever since its birthday, the first Pentecost Day. She is with Catholics therein today, receiving honors that are a reflection of the honors bestowed upon her by our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. In that Church she will remain until the end of time, graciously accepting petitions to be presented to her Divine Son.
It seems to me that your Orthodox Jewish training ought to have caused you to realize the illogicalness of becoming a Protestant, once you were blessed with the consciousness that Jesus is the Messiah for Whom our holy forbears prayed. I assume you submitted to Baptism, as did I, because you believed Christianity to be Judaism full-blossomed. By this I mean you believed that in Christ, and the Church of Christ's making, there abides the realization, the perfection, of the potential and proclaimed principles and prophesies of the Judaism of the pre-Christian centuries. That Judaism was an organic, authoritative, hierarchial, priestly religion. It was a sacrificial religion, the supreme authority of which centered in the High Priest, the successor of Aaron; just as supreme world authority in the Church Christ established centers today in the successor of Peter, to whom Christ delegated His authority (St. Matt. 16).
God Is One, hence the religion and Church of God must be One, as they were in Israel, and not a multitude of churches, such as has existed in Protestantism since the days of Martin Luther, the Father of divided Christendom. Perfection, the fulfillment of the principles and prophesies of Judaism through the Messiah, Jesus, does not mean going from unity to diversity; from the single Church that came into existence on the first Pentecost Day, to Protestantism with its hundreds of denominational divisions, including the 22 different kinds of Baptist churches, and a conglomeration of doctrinal beliefs.
The many attempts at unification of Protestant Churches, evidences the consciousness that a Church of Christ must be One, as is the Catholic Church, both doctrinally and governmentally. This diversity, called Protestantism, caused Rev. Charles Clayton Morrison, an opponent of the Catholic Church, to say while editor of The Christian Century:---"Modern Protestantism is the heir of the factionalism, the contentiousness, the theological egoism in which the denominations had their origin. Though the twentieth century has already seen more mergers of two or three denominations than in the whole history of Protestantism, it must be sadly recorded that the same period has seen more sects formed on the periphery than in any equal previous period. The integrative process is matched by at least an equal disintegrative process. The baneful heritage of this fissiparous (the division of a body into parts that become independent organisms) tendency remains in even the strongest and most enlightened of our denominations. It exists as sectarian inertia, complacency and preoccupation with narrow unecumenical interests. And this when Protestantism faces the stupendous task of winning America, which has been steadily drifting away from it, and which only a united Protestantism can hope to win." (May 22, 1946).
Surely right reason must be departed from to imagine that any one or all of the heterogeneous churches in Protestantism, referred to by Editor Morrison, could be the "One Fold of the One Shepherd" that our Lord commanded to be heard (St. Matt. 18:18). The "fissiparous" matter of man-made churches is plainly evident in the split-up of the original 17th century Baptist Church into 22 different kinds of Baptist churches. Here is a list of them:---General or Armenian Baptists; General Six Principle Baptists; Particular Baptists; Dunkards; Predestinarian Baptists; Free Will Baptists; Free Will (Bullockites) Baptists; United American Free Will Baptists; Winebremerian Baptists; Primitive Baptists; Colored Primitive Baptists; Anti-Mission, Hard Shell Baptists; Separate Baptists; Regular Baptists; Duck River Baptists; United Baptists; Seventh Day Baptists; Church of God Baptists; Campbellites, Disciples of Christ, Baptists; Northern Baptist Convention; Southern Baptist Convention; and National Baptist Convention.